Image: Bridie Adams

Bethel Chapel’s overgrown cemetery ‘a grim place to say goodbye to loved ones who deserve better’

The last funeral at the privately-owned graveyard in Morganstown was in August

A GROUP of grieving relatives are calling for the cemetery in which their loved ones are buried to be better maintained.

The Friends of Bethel Chapel would like the graveyard at the Grade II-listed building, which is privately owned, to be restored.

The chapel is owned by Gary Boyce. Under the terms of the 999-year lease on the property the burial ground must be preserved.

The Friends of Bethel Chapel meet in the Ty Nant to discuss the graveyard. Image: Richard Phillips.

David Price, 61, is part of the community group. He said that residents often visit the graveyard to leave flowers, but “people obviously don’t like seeing the building in this state.”

“They deserve better,” he said.

The last person buried in the grounds was Mr Price’s aunt, Audrey Kinasz, whose funeral service took place on August 1 at Christchurch in Radyr. She was then laid to rest at the Bethel Chapel graveyard, which Mr Price said “was a grim setting to say goodbye”.

Those with relatives buried at the chapel still visit and leave flowers. Image: Bridie Adams.

Another member of the group, Rosina Ann Bridgeman, 79, said that she is “so sad” that the chapel grounds are not maintained, and described the site as “forlorn and unloved”.

Her grandfather was a member and a lay preacher in the early 20th century and her aunt, Enid Morgan, was an organist who played at the chapel until she was in her 80s.

“I am glad they cannot see what has happened to it,” said Ms Bridgeman.

Residents of Morganstown are unhappy with the state of the chapel’s grounds. Image: Bridie Adams.

Mr Boyce declined to comment on the current state of the site or his plans for the building.

According to Helen Jones, a councillor for Radyr and Morganstown, Mr Boyce’s dream was to renovate the chapel into a “very special home” but under the terms of the lease the graveyard would remain.

The community has attempted to raise funds for the replacement of the chapel’s gate, which was stolen on April 12, 2022. Michael Deem started a Crowdfunder to raise the funds to replace the chapel gate, as well as to install a security light and tidy the graveyard and grounds.

The chapel’s gate was stolen earlier this year and has not been replaced. Image: Bridie Adams.

The online Crowdfunder says: “Local residents were shocked, saddened and deeply distressed. The Chapel holds a special place in the hearts of many in our village and to think that a part of it has been taken has for many left an empty feeling inside.”

Any funds raised from the Crowdfunder were supposed to go towards commissioning a design and construction of a bespoke iron gate to replace the one that was stolen, as well as to install a security light and signage to deter criminals from the area.

The community also wanted to use the funds to hire a landscape gardener, who could trim the grass and remove the brambles, making it easier for residents to visit the graveyard and tend to the graves. Any money raised above and beyond the target would have been donated to a selection of local charities.

Some of the graves are obscured by long grass and brambles. Image: Bridie Adams

However, due to a lack of donations, the project was not successful and therefore this work has not been done.

The future of the chapel is uncertain. The community would like to find a buyer who could restore the chapel – but it is not known what purpose the building might serve or whether Mr Boyce is prepared to sell.

In a 2010 report, Michael Graham Young, an estate agent, argued that “there is limited demand” and “insufficient parking” for a chapel or a community hall on the grounds.

He suggested that “the building would be well suited for a nursery or children’s day care facility”, although “the fact that it is set in a graveyard would detract from its marketability”.

He concluded that “the most feasible potential use for this building would be as a single residential dwelling, with garden area and two parking spaces.”

No one is sure what the future holds for the chapel building. Image: Bridie Adams.

Bethel Chapel, previously a Methodist church, was built in 1842 and, by 1851, had a congregation of over 150. The chapel gained status as a listed building in 1977, due to its history as a chapel dating from the early development of the area. As the congregation dwindled in the late 20th century, the chapel was declassified as a religious building.

The Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales considered converting the building into office space and using part of the grounds for parking. However, these plans were withdrawn due to local opposition, and the Church then sold the property to Mr Boyes.

A spokesperson for Cardiff Council previously told the Cardiffian that “any concerns relating to this building” are for the landowner only, and the council had no safety concerns that would require intervention.